Sunday, August 2, 2015

Half way there

Ya know. I think I've hit mid-life. If you look at the numbers, I have. I'm 42. I am most likely at the half-way point, give or take a few years. I intend on living to be a sassy old lady in my 80's who still dances on tables at weddings. I say this as if I have ever danced on a table at a wedding. I envision my old self as myself now, but way cooler.

This realization brings with it certain questions. Like have I learned from the first half? Have I accomplished what I set out to do? What's left that I want to do? Is it too late to do some things? Am I doing the things I really want to do or am I doing them for other reasons? What else do I feel compelled to do? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Am I making a difference in this world? Have I done anything of importance? Have I failed at what I've tried to do?

I think I'm kind of feeling that I'm in this weird space where I accomplished a lot of what I wanted to do too early. A lot of people fall into volunteering later in life when they have the luxury of spare time during their golden years. I started getting involved in my community and doing a lot of volunteering in my mid-20's. Now I'm getting burned out on it.

I wanted to become an author and I've so far authored six books. I should feel accomplished having met that goal and gone beyond it, but I feel like maybe I should have gone about it differently. I feel like the books should have been more successful or that I should have done more to make them more successful. It feels like it was so much more work than it should be for such a small return. Everything feels like so much more work than it should be.

It feels like at this point in my life I shouldn't have to work this hard for everything, but I feel like I'm working harder than ever to keep up. I don't want to have to work as hard hard in the second half. I want to have the luxury of time to do more of the things I really want to do and not what I have to or what's expected of me. But, you know how goes...if you have the time to do what you want, you don't have the money for it. If you have the money to afford to be frivolous, you don't have the time for it. And there's the whole anything worth doing is worth doing well and you don't get it without putting in hard work and sweat and tears....yadda, yadda. I don't know what's in store for part two as I go along, but I look forward to do. There's both a peace at this stage of being more relaxed about things, yet also a sense of urgency of running out of time. It's time to put all the cards out on the table and decide what I want to keep in my hand, what I should be holding onto tighter and what I don't mind letting go of.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Moving on

Wow. Just wow.

I now have a 21-year-old.

And I now have a 16-year-old.

When people tell you that kids grow up in the blink of an eye, they're telling the truth.

My two oldest sons have both hit major milestones this month.

My two sons are 5 years and 5 days apart. I can remember so well the day I went from being a mom of one to a mom of two. I still had a week of work to go before maternity leave. But, as I got up to go to work that Monday morning, my water broke. Uh, oh!

While I was trying to scramble through the house between contractions gathering things I hadn't packed yet, all I could think of was that in an effort to get things all squared away at work, I had important confidential files sitting at home that I had been working on all weekend that had to get back to the office and spreadsheets that had to be finished. My wonderful friend and co-worker stopped by on her way to work so I could try and go over them as best I could in four to six minute increments until I'd have to stop and do some deep breathing.

Later that morning, following some difficulties during labor, my second son was born via emergency c-section. I wasn't awake for it, so the first glimpse I got of him was as I was being rolled down the hall after recovery and they brought him out next to me. He looked just like his big brother and his big brother couldn't have been more proud.

At that time, I had no inkling that the 5 year span between the two would mean that one day I would be celebrating such big birthdays for them at the same time.

Maybe it's my longevity as a parent or the fact that I went on to have three more boys after them, that the milestones don't seem to be hitting quite as hard as they once were. I can remember sobbing at first days of school and watching one pedal down the sidewalk on a bicycle for the first time.

This year it's less sadness and more shock that I now have a full-blown adult child that can legally do anything I can. It's less teary eyes about my son driving alone for the first time and more anxiety of him driving for the first time, combined with anxiety over the insurance bill along with relief that it may lessen the load on me of driving him everywhere.

It's part of life. It's part of parenthood. The kids are growing up and moving on. It's just more of many milestones. Sometimes those milestones mean taking a first ride on a bike, other times a first time driving a vehicle. Sometimes it is a taking wobbly steps across a room, others times it's wobbly steps after a grown-up beverage. It's never easy, but you get more used to it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The best thing a father can do for a child is to love their mother

When we were kids my mom had a plaque hanging that said something like "The best thing a father can do for their child is to love their mother." It was fitting for my parents, where there were very frequently shows of affection. Like any couple, they didn't get along 100% but most of the time they were very loving. It was a great example for us.

They've now been married for more than 50 years and it's obvious that can drive each other a little crazy at times, but they are still crazy in love with one another. And that's been one of the biggest takeaways from their years of parenting my sisters and brothers and I.

As a parent I still believe in that saying that mom had displayed in the living room. Although we have no daughters, it's just as important for sons to see their father taking care of their mother, treating her with respect and being loving towards her. There are a lot of kids who don't get to see that.

And it really goes both ways, kids need to see that love on both sides - from father to mother and from mother to father.

Mother's Day just passed and that is a time of year when naturally a husband will do something kind for his wife. However, it's the kind things that happen spontaneously that also have a big impact. Like when my husband went out to exercise his new hobby of taking nature photographs and he returned with a handful of wildflowers for me. Or when he noticed a restaurant I like had a favorite soup on the menu and he drove there to pick some up for me. Or when he notices my car needs to be washed and spends a Saturday morning in the driveway scrubbing it. There are so many other things I could list. Some get noticed more than others.

I, in turn, reciprocate, although it's not something where you keep score. But I try to be thoughtful of him and do little things for him, too. I'll make a favorite meal of his. I'll give him a shoulder massage after a rough day at work. Honestly, I have an easier time coming up with nice little things he does for me than I do for him and I need to work on that.

Anyway, it's crucial that kids witness those nice things. It's also important that they see you holding hands and enjoying each other. When they see the love between their parents, it can make them feel more secure, more confident, more prone to repeat that behavior.

I have the luxury of being in a long-time marriage and I know that there are a lot of parents who don't. It doesn't mean that kids can't still witness little bits of kindness toward the other parent. While you may not still be in love with that person, displaying kindness toward one another can still have a lasting positive effect on the children.

Take those opportunities while kids are watching to display love toward the other parent. Show them what a partnership should be when everything isn't focused on feeding and changing and caring for kids. Give them a little glimmer into your relationship. And let them see that it's a two-way street.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dears sons: Have respect

Dear sons:

(Letter #25)

This is the 25th letter added to the blog. I got the idea years ago from another writer and have added a few letters to my boys here as things arise that I think they should know. Maybe one day they'll look at these and realize that all of mom's advice wasn't that crazy and unimportant after all.

So, my thought for you today is to have respect for others. In life, you're not going to like everyone you come across. They won't all like you. You'll meet people who will have very different opinions than yours. That doesn't mean they are wrong. It doesn't mean you are right. It means that you have each had different life experiences and different influences that have shaped your opinions. You can still co-exist peacefully. That starts by having respect for the other party.

What is respect? When I looked online most of the definitions were along the lines of admiration for someone.


a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Besides being a feeling, it's a verb, too. It's an act of showing admiration.

  1. 1
    admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

You may wonder how you are supposed to admire someone you may not agree with. It doesn't mean that you give in to their beliefs. It doesn't mean that you try to convince them of yours. It doesn't mean you dismiss their way of thinking. It means you don't assume yours is superior. Part of the beauty of this world is that we aren't all the same. We think differently. We see differently. We feel differently. And despite, that we can still get along.

You can look at someone with a completely different attitude, yet admire how much passion they have for that cause. You can look at someone who does something well, even if it's not something you're interested in, and admire the work they put into getting good at it.

Showing someone respect involves listening. It means not assuming you know better. Not cutting them off and telling them what they're doing wrong. It means giving them the benefit of hearing them out. It means allowing them to express what they'd like to express just as you would like to do the same. It means not making them feel like less because you may not agree.

It applies in so many aspects of life. School. Work. Relationships. Social circles.

You don't always have to be right. And sometimes learning that you aren't can be refreshing and eye opening. Don't have negative feeling toward someone who is different, admire them for what it takes for them to take that path that may be different.

As you grow, remember that respecting others also means you are respecting yourself. It can make your world so much bigger when you respect others enough to listen to their views and open up your own.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A hometown parade tradition

One of my favorite things about the spring and summer season is parades. I love them. I go to all the ones I can - Memorial Day parades, 4th of July Parades, Flag Day parade and Labor Day parade. Then there's some of the other fun parades in the region, like the Pierogi Parade that's part of Pierogi Fest in Whiting and their downtown Christmas Parade. But one that I have gone to every single year for at least 25 years is Lansing's Good Neighbor Day Parade. It's a fun parade that was started 48 years ago by the Chamber of Commerce and highlights the businesses, non-profit organizations, schools and churches in the village and surrounding towns. It's always the first Saturday in May and while Memorial Day is the traditional kick-off of the summer season, around here it's the Good Neighbor Day Parade. Just thought I'd share a few visuals of this fun event that has been a family tradition for us. Every year for the past many years there's at least one person in the family in the parade. This year two of the boys were involved.

The Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard always starts off the parade.

Not far behind them was the Civil Air Patrol color guard. My middle son is part of that group.

I always love the marching bands. There were three this year.

Among the other entries were firetrucks, emergency vehicles, horses, tractors, motorcycles, antique cars, clowns and lots of other fun stuff. The theme of the parade was "Alive with Music" so there were a few bands on floats, also.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cherishing our mutual love of the game

Every year my dad and I go to a Cubs game early in the season. That usually means opening week because we can't wait to get there after a long fall and winter without our favorite past time. Dad grew up in central Illinois surrounded by Cardinals fans, but fell in love with the Chicago Cubs as he listened to the broadcasts of them playing in the 1945 World Series and read about their victories in the pages of the Chicago newspapers that were delivered to his home via mail.

Dad passed on his love of the Cubs and his love of the game to his kids and now I'm doing the same with mine. My oldest really took to it. He's as big a fan as my dad. They've been to lots of games together over the years and several Cubs conventions. I love to hear their little chats about the latest trades, the merits of the bull pen and how the season is shaping up. Somehow, the younger four of my boys just don't have that same affection for the game. My youngest one gets excited about the games, but it's as much for the cotton candy and nachos as it is to watch the team I love so much in one of my favorite places.

This year as Dad and I looked at the schedule, we noticed there were way fewer day games this season. Heading to the ball park in April is brutal enough during the day, but head to a game at night in those first couple weeks of the season and you are almost guaranteed to need eight layers of clothing. Since I couldn't find a day game in April that would fit into the schedule, we had to wait for May. I'm glad we did because we couldn't have ordered better weather. It was about 80 degrees, very bright and sunny for the first few innings and then a little overcast, but still a lovely warm day.

We always get tickets from my sister who has been a season ticket holder for many years. We love the upper deck seats that are under the big awning that keeps us dry when it does rain and that I can spend the day outside and never even have to apply sunblock. Those seats are where we reminisce and lament over teams of the past, missed opportunities and team curses. It's where we swell with optimism and excitement discussing the newest crop of big league players and the talent in the Cubs organizations' minor league teams. It's where we share a bag of peanuts in the shell and contemplate if we want the bare bones dog from the vendors who walk the crowd, a dog with grilled onions from the stand around the corner or if it's worth the trek down under the press box to get one with freshly chopped onions. It's where we bond over a mutual love of the game and a fondness for this team and this ballpark that has given us so many memories.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dear sons: I wish the middle for your kids

Dear Sons:

(Letter #24)

So I've read a few things recently that reinforce the thought of how my generation and my parents' generation have absolutely hit opposite sides of the pendulum when it comes to parenting. My guess is that my mom and dad parented in a way drastically different than theirs did as well.

A recent article I read suggested that those who parented in the 60's and 70's and even 80's were entirely hands off. Kids left in the morning and didn't come home until mealtime or when the street lights came on. Parents didn't hover. The kids walked to friends houses. They rode bikes around the neighborhood. They sometimes did stupid things -- exploring where they shouldn't have been, but they learned how to problem solve. They were kind of on their own. People really didn't bat an eye when kids were left home alone for hours or sat unattended in a car while parents when in a store to shop. Supervision just wasn't that common.

And it also suggested that today's parents are much the opposite. Helicopter parents they are called. They watch their kids every move. And the moves of everyone else's kids. They call police when they spot a kid unsupervised in a car or in a park or in their own front yard. They don't believe their kids are safe walking to school or riding their bikes to friends' houses. Supervision is paramount.

How we ended up on such opposite sides is perplexing. As we grew up, we had freedom and we had independence and we survived. We didn't have cell phones back then as a means to track where everyone was all the time.

Now that generation is doing the parenting and it's so different than it was back then. As I've moved on in my parenting years, I've learned to hover less but can't imagine a world where I'd send you out to play and tell you to come home hours later when it started to get dark. And I don't necessarily believe that the world is that less safe than it was then. But I know I'd be a nervous wreck, wondering where you were and what you were doing and who you were with and why you were gone so long and if you were getting into trouble or if someone had started trouble with you or if you were lost or if you were hungry or a barrage of other possibilities.

I hope that when you become parents, life will fall somewhere in the middle. Where your kids will be able to learn about the world without you looking over their shoulders and where you'll be connected enough to communicate, yet not so much that the worry takes over the enjoyment. I wish for you that parenting will be middle ground.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Little things that make you fall in love again

We've been married for almost 24 years. It's a long time.

As time passes, the daily grind of keeping things going with work and family and home can sometimes put you in robot mode. You're doing what needs to get done and not fully appreciating everything around you.

I had a moment last night where I just felt a load of gratitude for what I have and felt so appreciative of the hubby I have.

One of our boys - the 11-year-old - is in an upcoming play. He's been on stage before, but will have more lines in this production that he's had in the past. I'd gotten a kind call from the director just letting me know that he's getting stuck during some scenes and could use some extra practice time.

My son's spent a lot of time in his room going over the script on his own and he's been going through scenes at weekly rehearsals. It wasn't quite enough. I tried over and over and over and over to get him to sit down with me and go over lines with him. I suggested that it would really help if I read him the lines of the others in the scenes and we could go back and forth. He just wasn't going for it. He's not a shy kid. I don't know what the deal was. I guess I make him nervous. I can see that. I totally don't want to do that, but I can understand it. I'm sure he'd feel pressure if we sat together to rehearse.

I thought that if he didn't want to rehearse with me there's no way he would want to with his dad. Theatre is my thing, not my husband's. I'd be out at a musical every week if I could spare the time and money. I love going to plays. I love live theatre put on by all ages.

I can't even remember the last time my husband has been to a play that wasn't at one of the kids' schools. The last closest thing we went to may have been Blue Man Group. That was about 15 years ago.

So, it shocked me when I asked my son, "Do you want to go over lines with Dad?' and he answered "yes." And then I was surprised at how well it went.

Like I said, theatre is not my husband's thing, yet he patiently sat down with the script going through scene after scene, making sure he was getting pronunciations correct and adjusting his voice based on the character. He encouraged my son to leave the room for a moment to get into character and to use props to help him recite the scenes. I would have done none of that. I would have focused on memorization. No wonder my son wanted to practice with dad rather than me. The kids have said it before and I wholeheartedly agree that dad is much cooler than I am.

Anyway, seeing the two of them together and listening to them was just so heartwarming and a reminder of what a good father he is. And it just takes me back and makes me fall in love with him all over again.

Back when they were babies and toddlers those tender moments of cuddling and him feeding them and them falling asleep in his arms were constant and easy to recognize. As they get bigger and the cuddling and snuggling is less and less, we tend to least I do. And that makes a reminder like this just so sweet.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dear sons: Experience matters

Dear sons:

(Letter #23)

Well, it's time for another little note from mom. I know when you're a teenager or young adult you think you know it all. You think the grow ups are out of touch or dumb or just crazy. You think you have the answers. So, if you know the answers, there's no need to take advice from the grown-ups, right? Wrong.

I was in your shoes once. I thought I knew better. I could do things faster and more efficiently. I didn't think the grown ups made sense sometimes, so it didn't seem like I needed to listen to them. But, experience does count for something. And it's often when you get older and experience more that a light comes on and you realize that people who have had life experiences really do know what they're talking about.

So, I'll give this piece of advice (that you probably won't take because, well, we've covered that already) to keep an open mind. And to not be defensive when an adult tries to suggest a better way. To not shrug off the advice that stems from years of experience. To listen to those who try to teach you better because they've learned from their mistakes. Take a minute to really listen and then look at yourself and rethink the choices you are making. Sometimes experience can provide the answer you need.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

So, while the girl mommies were at Frozen on Ice...

For the past couple weeks, I've been seeing posts and pics all over social media from moms taking their kids to Frozen on Ice. And at the same time, there was another show in town. One with big boy appeal...Monster Jam.

And since I'm a mom of no girls and all boys, I found myself sitting in the loud, smelly, freezing Allstate Arena watching ATVs and dune buggies and big monster trucks make their way around the track lined with dirt and sand.

Never in a million years would it be a place I would pick to spend money on tickets for and choose to spend a night at. But, you know, the things we do for our kids. And I did have fun.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Teaching lessons and learning lessons (an awakening inspired by laundry)

In my early days of parenting, I thought that one of the best things you could do as a mother was to do things for your child. It's pretty much a necessity at first. You have to do everything for that new child. They are helpless without you and spend those early days wrapped in the neediness of that child and you do everything you can for him or her.

As the child grows, the amount of things you do for them should lessen. I really didn't understand the concept that the idea of raising a child was to help them learn to do things on their own and to become independent. You are to raise them to one day be able to do all the things you do for them all on their own. It really is all about doing for them then teaching them and then eventually them not needing you to do those things anymore.

I honestly didn't get it at first. I just didn't get it. Why would I make my child do something when I could do it for them? I washed faces after eating. I cut up food for them. I made their beds. I cleaned their clothes. I sorted their socks. I straightened up their rooms. I ran their baths. I cleared their dishes off the table when they were done eating.

I was mom. I was supposed to do these things. Looking back, that is really what I was thinking. It seemed mean almost for me to make my child do a chore when I was completely capable of doing it. Well, that was when I had one son and he was the center of my world. Needless to say, my attitude has shifted as more children were born and they grew.

My attitude may have changed a little too much. Now my way of thinking is "why would I do something for them that they could do themselves?" If a child sits in front of the television and calls to me in the other room as I am in the middle of a project asking for a beverage, I most likely will reply, "No, you are capable of doing it yourself. You can get yourself a glass of water." Rewind 15 years and I would have jumped no matter what I was in the middle of and delivered that glass of water. And then kissed them on the forehead and probably asked if they'd like a snack to go with it.

My mind wandered to such thoughts today as I did laundry. You see, I don't usually do laundry. The kids are all old enough that they are all capable of doing laundry. Hubby washes his uniforms at work. The kids each do their own and there's a chart on the fridge with laundry on the list. Each day one of them is responsible for washing whatever is the laundry room that needs to be washed. Towels. Blankets. Coats. Hats. Gloves. Sheets. Stray socks. Pieces of clothing belonging to their brothers that got left behind in the bathroom hamper. And my laundry and my husbands. I do the folding and put it away, but they fill the washing machine, transfer it to the dryer and carry the baskets upstairs so I can fold them. Then they carry the clothes to wherever they need to go.

Laundry is something a child can and should learn to do. I cringe when I hear about mothers who still do laundry for their adult sons. I am glad that I finally woke up and gave this chore to the kids. It's something they are capable of. They learn cause and effect in the way that if they don't do their laundry, they don't have clean clothes. They then have to wear something not so clean or dig into the icky looking or ill fitting pieces that serve only as back-up garments.

I want to raise sons who can fend for themselves and not expect that the woman they end up with will be the one doing the laundry and housework and cooking and all that good stuff. I want them to be men who were taken care of my mom and then taught that everything mom did for them they could do on their own.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

When you sleep soundly, so may I

I walked into the living room earlier this week and found my youngest one asleep on the sofa. It reminded me of this poem I wrote many moons ago. :)

Put down your head, sweet child, upon my chest.
Close your eyes, and slumber in security.

When you cry, I weep an ocean of tears.
When you are hurt, my pain is so severe.
When you're gone, my self is incomplete.

When you smile, sunshine fills my life.
When you laugh, your comedy is a sweet song.
When you reach for me, my self becomes complete.

Sleep, my dear, in my warm arms.
When you sleep soundly, so may I.

I'm losing them

As Christmas break was coming to a close, I tried to squeeze in a quick overnighter. Mid-December was a bit of a blur as stomach flu circulated through the house. Christmas wasn't the flurry of activity for our family that it's been in the past. There was no celebration with my husband's side of the family as his father passed away about a year-and-a-half ago and his mom moved out of state in early December. On my side of the family, we don't have the grand Christmas holidays we celebrated at my sister's huge house in the west suburbs anymore. She moved to Arizona last year. My oldest brother wasn't there. We had a nice gathering, but it's just not the same when there are siblings missing who we are used to seeing every Christmas. We went to my younger sister's house, but it was several days after Christmas so it felt a little strange.

Anyway, I thought to make the time off a little more special, I would arrange to take the kids to a water park for a little fun. It was my husband and I and my four youngest boys. My oldest is an adult now and he rarely travels with us anymore. It makes me a little sad - as again, it just feels like something's missing - but he is either working or hanging out with friends or just opts to forego the bickering on the car ride that is bound to happen when you squeeze 7 people into an SUV for a road trip. Since my oldest usually doesn't go on trips with us anymore and because I have two teens that are growing quicker than I care them to, I savor these getaways when we have time all together.

So I got the bags packed and off we went to the water park. My 13-year-old (the overachiever) was genuinely upset that the trip was cutting into his time to work on his science project. We got to the hotel and first thing the 9 and 11-year-olds wanted to do was get in the water. Since it was getting close to dinner time I told them we'd head to the restaurant first and swim after that. We all enjoyed a nice meal and timed it well. We were all hungry, but hadn't yet hit diva status (remember that Snickers commercial that showed how hunger can turn the nicest person into a cranky, inconsolable diva) and enjoyed each other's company.

After dinner we returned to our room and I pulled out all the swimsuits. My husband had a busy night at work the day before and opted to stay in the room and rest. My 13-year-old told me he didn't want to swim. At all. During the two days there. "I really don't like to swim," he said. He expressed that he'd rather stay in the room. The 15-year-old was on the fence about swimming, but when his brother didn't want to go, he decided he'd stay in the room, too. The two youngest couldn't wait to get to the pool.

So, off the three of us went, leaving the other three behind in the room. As I floated around on the lazy river with nothing but my thoughts I came to the realization that the boys that I'd left behind in the room were moving on. They aren't into our little trips the way they used to be. They're too big for the children's museums and kid attractions. They are at an age when parents aren't all that fun to be with. Whereas a year ago we'd take trips and they would go with the flow and tag along and seem excited, this time it was apparent that they'd rather sit with their phones and play video games. I realized that I'm losing them. I'm losing them to the teen years. They're going into territory I can never pull them back from. They're growing up.